BALLSTON SPA – More than 750 families will be able put milk and more on the table after Wednesday’s dairy drive-thru giveaway at the Saratoga County Fairgrounds in Ballston Spa.
The American Dairy Association teamed up with the Saratoga County Fair and placed two gallons of milk, a 20-pound box of produce and another 20-pound box of dairy products into each vehicle for more than four hours Wednesday before running out.
“I’m shocked and thrilled at the same time,” Susan Rhoades, executive director of the Saratoga County Fair, said. “I’m amazed at the number of cars that are here.”
The event was posted on the Saratoga County Fair Facebook page and was shared more than 1,100 times leading to a lengthy line on both Fairground Avenue and Prospect Street before the cars entered the fairgrounds. They were placed in several serpentine loops before making their way to the five loading stations manned with volunteers and product.
“We started here 50 minutes early to just get the cars going,” Steve Terzo, American Dairy Association Northeast director of business development, said. “I thought we would have boxes left over, but we will not.
“We’re going to turn people away, which is sad, we never like to do that.”
Terzo has been operating drive-thru events since March and seen an uptick in requests and volume lately.
“In April, the numbers were very high, May slowed down, then into June, July and August we are planned every week,” he said. “We have 50 percent more cars than I have planned to show up today.”
Each vehicle received two gallons of milk, a dairy box containing cottage cheese, sour cream, string cheese, another gallon of milk and six containers of yogurt along with a vegetable box with nectarines, carrots, potatoes, yellow squash, romaine lettuce, zucchini and oranges.
Volunteers helped fill the trunks with goods, including local dairy farmer Kathy Hanehan, who has a family dairy farm on Route 67 in Stillwater.
“To be able to be a dairy farmer and milk cows every day and be able to give back to the people is just amazing,” Hanehan said. “It’s a really tough time and these people are really appreciative, and they really need the milk.”
Of the smiling faces loading dairy products into the 750-plus vehicles was Erin Armitage, Miss New York State Second-Alternate Dairy Princess, who is part of the Clover Stone Farm.
“I’ve been showing cows since I was seven years old, so I’ve had a lot of experience,” Armitage said. “I was Washington County’s Dairy Princess last year, now I’m serving on the state board.
“The fact that we’re giving back to our community, and the nine essential nutrients for the younger kids to get that since they are not in school right now.”
The produce and dairy boxes were delivered on Wednesday by Glazier Packing Company from Malone and the milk gallons arrived on a Garelick Farms truck from Rensselaer.
“It’s a win-win for all of us,” Fred Deichman, sales representative for Dairy Farmers of America, said. “People get a chance to get some product for their families, we keep the plant running. The closer to capacity we are the better we run, the better the product is.”
On Wednesday, Deichman said Garelick trucks were part of dairy drive-thrus at Syracuse, Owego, Sidney, and Ballston Spa.
Wednesday’s local event included the delivery of an equivalent of 3,000 gallons of milk.
The Saratoga County Fair, along with all fairs across the state, were canceled, freeing up the space in Ballston Spa for Wednesday’s event.
“We obviously can’t have a fair. I think this is fantastic and a great tie-in with the Dairy Association with the agriculture at the fair,” Rhoades said. “When we’re done with this event and our virtual fair this week, I’m going to look at what other things we can do like this for the rest of the year.”
With all products depleted, Terzo said his organization would be back, but with an even bigger challenge.
“We’ll do another one here in late August, we’re on plan for it,” he said. “The bad thing, some of these, when we do them two or three times, the people are getting used to it and the lines get longer, earlier.”
Reach Stan Hudy at [email protected] and follow on Twitter @StanHudy